Plastic cutlery may be a convenient way to eat food on the fly and evade the cleanup, but it’s also non-biodegradable. In the USA alone, 40 billion plastic utensils are thrown away annually.
Based in Hyderabad, India since 2011, Bakeys produces lightweight cutlery that looks like wood and that you can throw away without feeling guilty about its impact on the environment, as it biodegrades in only 4 – 5 days. However, if you do put it in the trash, you’re missing a trick — though wild insects, birds and rodents may be in for a treat because crucially, you can also eat it. Its inventor Narayana Peesapaty describes it as “tasty, nutritious, fun and environmentally friendly.”
Prior to setting up Bakeys, he was a man with a mission. An environmental scientist with a background in ground works and forestry, he was concerned about the problem of 120 billion pieces of disposable plastic cutlery being dumped in landfill sites in India each year. Then he had a lightbulb moment whilst on an airplane flight, as he watched fellow passengers eating their curry with khakra, or crispy flatbreads: Instead of throwing our cutlery away, why not eat it or feed it to our pets?
“It tastes like a cracker, a dry cracker because we don’t put any fat in it. It can complement any food – the taste of the food gets into the spoon… though it’s not just a spoon, it’s actually a nutritious millet bread,” said Narayana Peesapaty.
He was so driven with the desire to create edible, environmentally friendly cutlery that he put his apartment up as collateral to raise funds for his project, and he has since run two highly successful internet fundraising campaigns on Kickstarter and on the Indian platform Ketto. He isn’t just inspired by the need to clean up waste from the planet. Plastic contains polystyrene and various chemical compounds which are alleged to cause eye irritation, fatigue, depression, headaches — potentially, according to some studies, even certain cancers. Though some plastics are recyclable, many organizations, as well as very many people, choose not to do so to avoid costs or just because it’s easier not to bother.
“Environmental and economic priorities should be able to work simultaneously and sustainably and not at loggerheads. Plastic is everywhere, all pervading and it’s cheap. Before there were no real alternatives – and now there is edible cutlery,” said Peesapaty.
Made without using preservatives, the cutlery has a three year shelf-life. The energy required to make 100 edible spoons (or sporks, pictured above) is the same of that required to make one plastic spoon. You can use the cutlery to eat hot soups or stir your tea without it turning soft, and it comes in different flavors — cinnamon and ginger, beetroot and carrot, sugar, ginger and garlic, black pepper… all to complement your food. Though, maybe when you stir your tea it’s best to use the sugar spoon.
Peesapaty wants to manufacture on a large enough scale that he can work directly with the farmers who grow the base materials, thus making the process as cheap as that which creates plastic, and therefore more economically viable. The cutlery’s principle ingredient is millet, which requires 60 times less water to grow than rice and which hardens to a brittle, though edible foodstuff which can be made fine enough to shape into spoons, forks, chopsticks — even bowls and plates. So, when you’ve finished dinner, if the fancy takes you, you can eat your knife, your fork and your crockery for desert. It surely beats arguing about who will do the washing up.